A road less travelled: Q&A with Marshall Stocker December 2019

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Marshall Stocker, Ph.D., CFA, is a world expert on how economic policy impacts investment outcomes. Earlier in 2019, he was appointed director of country research at investment firm Eaton Vance.

Here, he shares with Industry Moves his passion for emerging-market investing and some experiences that have helped shape his life.

What are some of your career highlights?

I’d say a key one is the successful launch, more than a decade ago, of investment strategies – the first-ever, I believe – focused on economic freedom and economic liberalisation. Another, given the quantity of my published academic research, is that I’m now the most widely published author on the relationship between economic freedom and investment outcomes. I also feel privileged to have experienced living through two revolutions. I lived in Egypt during the Arab Spring in 2011 and was in Thailand in 2014 at the time of the military coup.

How many countries have you visited?

Well, if you include Yemen, 81. I’ve been fortunate, too, to witness some extremely interesting events as an expatriate. During the Arab Spring, there were times when there was no internet or cell phone service and business had ground to a halt. Personal security was very much DIY. I had some scary moments. I remember hiding in my apartment; desk braced up against the door and a butcher’s knife on my nightstand.

Does investing in emerging markets require a different mindset for Western investors?

Absolutely. If you have a meeting in the Middle East, for example, no way can you be direct, forward and immediate about the nature of your enquiry. First, you need to build personal relationships. It’s so different from, say, Manhattan, where if you don’t get to the point in the first 10 minutes, you’re seen as wasting everyone’s time.

What first attracted you to a career in finance?

I was looking for a work environment where every day brings new challenges and where people who can successfully address these challenges are rewarded in a meritocratic way. For me, that’s what finance offers.

Why did you join Eaton Vance?

Eaton Vance is one of America’s most respected and well-resourced investment firms. I particularly like the firm’s willingness to take a progressive view of the way assets are managed. For example, I was hired as an equity portfolio manager but sit on the sovereign bond desk – the rationale being that the risks most pertinent to emerging markets are those which are best understood by sovereign investors.

And the director of country research role – what’s that like?

It’s a great fit for me. It gives me the opportunity to explore further the investment philosophy of our Global Income team and Emerging-Market Debt team in a formal research setting.

Where did you grow up?

In Brownsburg, Indiana – a small town that had a population of 6,000 people. Some people may have seen the 1986 film “Hoosiers” about an Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. Well, I was in that movie in an extra role.

What are some things people don’t know about you?

I’m conversant in German and Arabic. And, for almost a decade of my working life, I was a volunteer deputy fire chief and emergency medical technician.

Who has had the most influence on your career?

Two people really. One is a high school economics professor who taught me the economic way of thinking, how scarce resources are most successfully allocated. The second is my wife. She has worked in finance at a senior level and is a great support. I am able to bring my work problems home and benefit from her insights.

If not in finance, where would you be?

I’d be in the classroom teaching economics and the philosophy of classic liberalism, and how it relates to investment. That’s what I care about passionately.

What piece of advice has stuck with you?

Never turn down an invitation, particularly early in your career.

Where can we see more of your work?

New country research head explains how role will enhance Eaton Vance’s edge in EM debt

Emerging markets debt-Determinants of sovereign bond quality and returns

View Marshall Stocker's profile